Mobile phones are like an extra limb for many of us these days so if your phone develops a fault you may feel cut off from your favourite apps, news channels and your friends.
But you do have rights if your mobile develops a fault so you should be back texting, calling and downloading your favourite music before long.
Mobile phone contracts
If your phone forms part of your mobile phone contract, your claim would be against your mobile phone service provider and you may be entitled to a free repair or replacement as part of your contract.
It’s worth checking your mobile operator’s terms and conditions to see what you’re entitled to.
In addition to your mobile phone operator’s terms and conditions, you also have your statutory rights under the Consumer Rights Act (which replaced the Supply of Goods and Services Act from 1 October 2015).
This means your mobile provider – in addition to providing their service to you with reasonable skill and care – has to ensure the actual handset is of satisfactory quality and fit for purpose.
You could argue that a handset sold on a two-year contract is only ‘fit for purpose’ if it lasts two years.
Once you've owned your phones for six months the onus is on you as the consumer to prove there was a problem when you received the phone under the Consumer Rights Act, even if it’s taken time for the issue to manifest. This could take the form of an engineer’s report - but you’d have to pay for it first.
- If your phone was bought as part of a contract, your claim is against your mobile phone service provider and you may be entitled to a free repair or replacement.
- If you bought the mobile phone yourself without any monthly contract, then it is the retailer and not the service provider who is responsible for dealing with your complaint.
- Follow our step-by-step guide on getting a faulty phone repaired or replaced.
I bought the phone myself
If you bought the mobile phone yourself without any monthly contract, then it’s the retailer and not the manufacturer or service provider who is responsible for dealing with your complaint.
So for instance, if you bought an iPhone from Carphone Warehouse and it developed a fault, you must make your complaint to Carphone Warehouse not Apple.
Under the Consumer Rights Act (which replaced the Sale of Goods Act from October 2015) any product you buy must be as described, of satisfactory quality and fit for purpose.
So if your phone develops a fault, you could be entitled to a full refund, repair or replacement.
Your options depend on what’s happened and how old the mobile handset was when it developed the fault.
If the fault develops within six months, the law assumes that the fault was inherent in the phone unless the retailer can actually prove otherwise.
After six months, you may be required to prove you didn't cause the fault, for example by mishandling the phone or dropping it in the bath!
Don’t be fobbed off
If you encounter a retailer that refuses to refund, repair or replace a faulty item, you should complain in writing to the store manager.
We've often heard of retailers passing the buck when it comes to taking responsibility for products after they develop a fault.
Don't be fobbed off though. If you want to get a result you need to be prepared to be persistent.
If you know your rights before you proceed, that will put you on a better footing from the outset. Our advice is to persevere!
An update has broken my phone
If an update to a digital device – such as an operating system update to your phone – causes your device to cease to function, then you could potentially be protected by the Consumer Rights Act.
The same applies if you download an app which damages your phone.
In both cases the retailer (rather than the developer) will have to compensate you if any device or other digital content you own is damaged as a result of the faulty update.
This only applies where the damage wouldn’t have happened if ‘reasonable care and skill’ been exercised in the provision of the digital content – even if that content was provided free of charge.
This could mean that if an app or operating system update damages your phone to the point where it’s no longer usable, you could be entitled to compensation from the retailer who sold you the phone or the app store through which you purchased the app.
My mobile phone has a guarantee
In addition to your rights under the Consumer Rights Act, your mobile handset will normally have a manufacturer’s guarantee.
You can claim on this if your mobile develops a fault during the guarantee period.
If a fault occurs a long time after purchase but within the guarantee period, pursuing the guarantee may be your best remedy.
It’s worth contacting the retailer first to see if they will be willing to pursue the guarantee on your behalf.
If not, contact the manufacturer directly. The manufacturer must do whatever it says it will do in the guarantee.
Every mobile phone provider must belong to one of two telecoms dispute resolution schemes - Cisas or the Communications Ombudsman Services.
So if you have exhausted your provider's internal complaints procedure you can escalate your complaint here.
Note that the Ombudsman Service and Cisas only deal with complaints about mobile service providers (the company you pay for your service) and not about other mobile phone retailers that 'resell' mobile contracts but don't operate their own service (for example, Phones4U).